Posts Tagged 'Hudson'

Tiger Beetle

Cicindela limbalisA Common Claybank Tiger Beetle (Cicindela limbalis). Also known as the Green-margined Tiger Beetle. Spotted by a owl-eyed friend on a lichen-anchored rock on Mt. Taurus up above Cold Spring, NY, on a recent hike. Tiger beetles, in addition to being stripy are fast-moving predators of other insects.

viewThis was the view from up there.

Chimneys and their Swifts

IMG_7807Brick chimneys are things of beauty, old utilitarian architecture made pleasing by shape and material. Bricks, made of clay, sand, shale, and heat, have a particularly earthy appeal.

I’m posting this today to remind us of the Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica) overhead now. I see and hear them regularly both on top of the Harbor Hill Moraine and elsewhere in the city. Do you? Their distinctive calls usually alert me to look up. I call it a “chittering.” Here’s a sample from Cornell, where they call it a “twitter.”

Swifts — we have one species here on the East Coast; there are about 100 species world-wide — are distinctive in flight too, stiff-winged (rather bat-like to some observers) and short-tailed. R.T. Peterson famously described Chimney Swifts as cigars with wings. They fly all day, gobbling up insects, but really seem to get noticed during these late twilights of June. They look quite dark because we usually see them in silhouette, but are actually tan-brown up-close.

But I’ve never been very close and don’t have a single photo to share. Chimney Swifts can’t perch. They cling to vertical surfaces, and nest inside chimneys, air vents, and hollow trees. As America central-heated and then rusted-out, the number of both domestic and industrial chimneys dropped substantially, having a detrimental effect on the species’ population, but the city still provides them with their namesake structures.

I don’t know if the chimney above, located in Red Hook, is home to anybody. The only actual chimney I’ve ever seen Swifts come out of was located in Beacon, NY. Yet the birds are almost always above us this time of year, so they’re roosting and nesting somewhere near…

Early Autumn

fall2The view towards Storm King Mountain.fall1mushroommossfall4

White Oak

Quercus albaThe pale underside of some Eastern White Oak (Quercus alba) leaves found on Mt. Taurus.Quercus albaThis is another specimen of the tree, two weeks later, in Green-Wood. It’s been a spectacular fall. Q albaSame tree, with some Hedgehog Galls. I also explore these fuzzy galls a little more here.

Resin

resinA fist-sized clump of resin. Usually associated with coniferous trees, this frozen waterfall of hydrocarbons, and several others, were on a deciduous tree I couldn’t identify on the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown. (The grounds are a 19th century landscaper’s dream, rich with exotica.)

Resins seem to have a defensive function, battling insects and smaller threats. Better living through chemistry? Humans have long used such resins for incense (as in the biblical frankincense and myrrh) and perfume, varnish, and glues. Honeybees certainly exploit the prophylactic value of resin in their product propolis, which is used to reinforce their hives against harmful bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

And over the long, long haul, the wondrous substance amber is just resin plus time. The choicest pieces of fossilized resin, at least outside the jewelry world, have insects perfectly preserved inside of them. Insects tens of millions of years old and preserved down to the finest detail.

“Amber” is from the Arabic ‘anbar, and originally referred to what we now call ambergris, the strange intestinal product of sperm whales. There was a lack of knowledge over the source of ambergris, or grey amber, and since ambre jaune, or yellow amber, was also found washed up on the shore, they were thought to be related. As Melville noted, it was hard to reconcile the perfumes made with ambergris with the guts of a whale, probably harder to reconcile than rich scents from the blood of trees.

Palisades

IMG_8469One last boating trip of the year.p2The Commodore headed up the Hudson for a look at the leaves.p4A hazy afternoon made for some impressionistic views.p3

After the rain

mushroomA wet, leaf-rotting, ground-enriching fall is good mushroom weather.


Share

Bookmark and Share

Join 462 other followers

Nature Blog Network

Archives